Future of Veterinary Care: North Carolina State University – Heather Brown

Each week at DugDug, we interview top pre-vet and vet school students across the nation to learn more about the experiences and internships shaping our future veterinarians.

Up this week is top-ranked veterinary school North Carolina State University. As president of the NCSU’s Pre-Vet Club, Heather Brown is an Animal Science major and Nutrition minor. The Pre-Vet Club organizes presentations, service projects, and social events dedicated towards developing the next generation of veterinarians. Here is our Q&A session with Heather:

What influenced you to pursue a pre-vet or vet program?
For me, being pre-vet is the only way of life that I know. I decided I wanted to be a veterinarian at a very young age and have been working toward my goal ever since. I began volunteering at an animal shelter and then was hired as a kennel assistant in a small animal clinic. Once in college, I explored a variety of fields such as lab animal medicine, exotic pet care, and wildlife management. I am attracted to the field of veterinary medicine because it brings together a variety of my interests including medicine, animals, and working with people. Each of my experiences throughout high school and my undergraduate career strengthened my passion for veterinary medicine and reassured me that I am following the correct path.

Why should other students consider a focus in Veterinary Medicine?
Veterinary medicine is a growing field that is overflowing with new opportunities. A DVM is a versatile degree that allows someone to be an asset in a variety of job settings such as a standard small animal practice, a mobile equine/large animal unit, a research or lab setting, a regulatory job with the FDA, a public health position, or any number of specialties.

What has been your experience with Pre-Vet medicine at your college?
I honestly believe that North Carolina State University is the perfect place to be a Pre-Vet student working toward an undergraduate degree. The opportunities that are extended to students at this university are already outstanding and they are continuing to expand and improve.

For starters, the animal science faculty members at NCSU are incredibly dedicated to their students. In my personal experience, my professors were always willing to work with me to add Honors designation for a course, write letters of recommendation, and even help find research opportunities in my field of interest.

NCSU also has VetPAC which is a unique asset that no other school has. VetPAC, the Veterinary Professions Advising Center, offers students mentoring, VMCAS application review, informational seminars, internships, as well as leadership opportunities.

In addition to the wonderful faculty and staff, NCSU also has a strong community of Pre-Vet students. There are many organizations on campus that provide valuable opportunities including the following clubs: Pre-Vet Club, Animal Science Club, Companion Animal Club, Herpetology Club, and Roots and Shoots. In 2012 the Pre-Vet Club and VetPAC hosted the national American Pre-Veterinary Medical Association symposium at NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine. With VetPAC’s support, 13 NCSU students represented our school at the annual symposium held at the University of Florida this year. Our Pre-Vet club won the award for Outstanding Club Community Service, Elizabeth Hyde was named an Outstanding Senior, Erin Beasley won the $500 scholarship, and Kimberly Schreiber was elected the treasurer of the APVMA Executive Board.

I am proud to be a member of the Pre-Vet community here at NC State and I would like to strongly encourage any pre-vet high school students to consider NCSU for an undergraduate education.

Please share and describe your best experience working with animals.

Choosing one experience to share is challenging since so many of my interactions with animals had a large impact on my career choice. One of my more unique experiences occurred on my study abroad trip in India. I got to help with the immobilization of a wild Sambar (n.b.: wild deer native to India)! Wildlife veterinary medicine focuses on the health of the herd as a whole. To monitor the herd, individual animals can be temporarily immobilized for the collection of blood samples and placement of tracking collars. With these wild animals we had to maintain a safe distance until the drugs in the immobilization dart had taken full effect. To reduce the effects on the animal, we had to work very quickly to conduct a physical exam, collect samples, and attach the collar. The blood samples can help the veterinarians determine if there are any new and potentially harmful diseases in the population while the tracking collar can help with discerning territories and migration patterns. It was interesting to participate in an area of veterinary medicine that is so different from small animal private practice in the United States.

Have you participated in any volunteer or veterinary internships:
Summers of Discovery Intern at NIEHS: As a summer intern in the Comparative Medicine Branch at NIEHS I got to conduct a research project under the supervision of Dr. Terry Blankenship-Paris. This opportunity gave me hands on experience with designing and experiment, working with laboratory mice, collecting and analyzing data, composing a scientific poster, and presenting at a symposium.

A few of the other experiences that made me a competitive vet school applicant:
- Wild Animal Management and Conservation Study Abroad in India
- VetPAC Intern
- Veterinary Assistant at Chatham Animal Hospital (June 2011 – present)
- Teaching Assistant for ANS 205 (Anatomy and Physiology)
- Research project to design a new enclosure for the North American River Otters at the North Carolina Zoo
- Research project on Equine Metabolism and diet effects on blood glucose
- Research course Phage Hunters/ Phage Genomics which is part of the National Genome Research Initiative funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute
- Pre-Vet Club Officer: President (Fall 2012-Spring 2013), Vice President (Fall 2011-Spring 2012), Agri-Life Council Representative (Fall 2010-Spring 2011)

Please share an interesting or little-known fact you’ve learned about animals.
Cats jaws are a simple hinge joint which means they cannot move their lower jaw from side to side but can only do up and down motion.

What are the latest developments or trends in veterinary medicine?
One of the recent trends in veterinary medicine is the transition from the jack-of-all-trades doctor to the specialist. Veterinary medicine is beginning to shift to a model that is similar to that of human medicine. General health or private practice veterinarians are still valuable and necessary, but often there is a need for an expert in a particular area. A few of the basic specialties are ophthalmology, neurology, pathology, and radiology. Each year new specialty areas are defined as the realm of veterinary medicine expands. Some of the newer fields include oncology, sports medicine, and rehabilitation therapy.

What are your future aspirations and career plans?
I will start my first year of vet school at NCSU this Fall 2013 with the intention of graduating with my DVM in the Spring of 2017. After graduation I plan to go into private practice for small animals with a focus on exotic pets including small mammals and reptiles. However, I do look forward to exploring other career opportunities while in vet school.